MLB schedule today has 4 games
The Major League Baseball Playoffs have arrived! Twelve teams are vying for the ultimate prize, but only eight of them are in action over the next three days because they are the teams participating in the Wild Card Round. The Orioles, Astros, Braves, and Dodgers won’t play until Saturday and will await the winners of these series.
Before I dig into today’s four games, a few general playoff betting tips:
Look to live bet - Betting pre-game is a little more difficult in my opinion during the postseason. The massive swings and huge plate appearances in the middle innings often lead to good live betting spots. Managers are quick on the trigger finger with pulling starters and will sometimes roll with high-leverage relievers early in big spots. That can create live betting opportunities on or against a team.
My favorite spot to look for is a starter turning the lineup over for the third time in a tight game. It is the highest-stress environment you can find at the end of a long regular season and starting pitchers will tire out earlier than normal. If a manager isn’t fast enough with the hook, that’s where I like to strike.
Mind the different run environment - In the MLB Playoffs, we typically see a higher share of runs being scored via the home run than we do during the regular season. In general, the pitching is collectively better for the teams that were good enough to make the playoffs. Opportunities to manufacture runs aren’t as commonplace, as hits are usually limited. Home runs are the name of the game and the team that hits more of them often comes out on top. Note how three games have totals of 7.5 today and another has an 8. Expect to see some 6.5s and even 6s as the postseason rolls along.
Handicap the managers - Some guys will be way more skilled at this playoff environment than others. They’ll have a better pulse for the game and will put aside feelings for math. They’ll make better decisions with leveraging relievers and getting starters out of the game.
Bullpen usage is critical - Knowing who is available and who isn’t is an enormous part of the equation in the playoffs. Guys will be asked for multiple innings that typically don’t go more than three outs. You’ll also see guys work with limited rest, especially here in the Wild Card Round, where there are no off days.
Use series prices as starting points - Sometimes you can take a series price before everything begins and use that as a starting point for a bet. For example, if you like an underdog to win Game 1, take the series price and look to either buy back on the other side at a better number or hold the good price that you’ve gotten. Pitching rotations can have a huge impact on the odds, but you can set yourself up with some good positions by attacking those markets.
Remember, VSiN Daily Baseball Bets will run every day there’s a game during the MLB Playoffs. Happy October!
Series previews: Rangers/Rays | Blue Jays/Twins | Diamondbacks/Brewers | Marlins/Phillies
Latest MLB betting splits | MLB odds from DraftKings Sportsbook
Follow me on Twitter, @SkatingTripods, to get the article right as it goes live. (Tracking sheet)
VSiN Daily Baseball Bets will be out shortly.
Here are some thoughts on the October 3 card (odds from DraftKings):
(odds as of 8:45 a.m. PT)
Tyler Glasnow will throw the first pitch of the 2023 postseason when he opens up Game 1 for the Rays against Jordan Montgomery and the Rangers. Glasnow finished the regular season on a high note with five shutout innings and nine strikeouts against the Red Sox, but had allowed 14 runs over 15.1 innings in his previous three appearances. He has allowed at least a 40% Hard Hit% in each of his last five starts, but his ability to generate swings and misses allows him to work around some hard contact.
If you’ve read this article before, you know I’m a big Montgomery guy. He had a 3.20 ERA with a 4.01 xERA and a 3.56 FIP over 188.2 innings in the regular season and only allowed two runs on 19 hits over his last 27 innings of work to finish up the regular season on a high note. He’s a bulldog type of guy with a four-pitch mix who can go out there and really keep hitters off-balance.
We didn’t see it as much this season, but Tropicana Field typically suppresses offense. We’ll see if that’s the case here in the playoffs. These are two very potent lineups and, as I mentioned yesterday, the Rays were actually the better of the two lineups by wRC+ when you adjust for park factor, but it was pretty close on the whole. The two offenses have a ton of similarities, so I think they cancel each other out in a lot of respects. The huge bullpen edge for the Rays is the one thing that really, truly stands out, but you can avoid that.
I think Rangers 1st 5 is worthy of a play here. You can get +135 at DraftKings, which is better than the full-game price, which seems off to me because the Rangers bullpen has been such a mess throughout the second half. I don’t think the gap between Montgomery and Glasnow is that big and I like both of these lineups. To me, everything is pretty close to equal footing and that yields some value on +135. I would not bet the full game on the Rangers and would actually strongly consider a live bet on the Rays if they are indeed trailing as Montgomery hits the sixth.
Pick: Rangers 1st 5 (+135)
I’m going in chronological order as opposed to rotation number for the postseason, so the next game up is the Blue Jays and Twins. The Twins haven’t won a playoff game since 2004 and have lost 18 straight postseason games - a stat that they are well aware of and get asked about all of the time.
Pablo Lopez gets the ball here for the Twins and the Blue Jays will respond with their ace, Kevin Gausman. Lopez had a career year with a 3.66 ERA, 2.98 xERA, and a 3.33 FIP over 194 innings of work. He racked up 234 strikeouts against just 48 walks and held righties to a .205/.254/.342 slash with a .260 wOBA. Even though his wOBA in the first half was .279, he had a 3.89 ERA compared to a 3.36 ERA with a .313 wOBA in the second half, so his numbers were actually better in the first half, but his sequencing luck failed him.
Lopez struggled coming into the postseason, though, as he allowed 11 runs in 15.1 innings over his final three starts against the White Sox, Angels, and A’s. Even with Toronto’s second-half struggles against above average or better righties, they’re still a far more formidable lineup than that group of teams.
However, Lopez did limit hard-hit contact in those three starts and just seemed to fall on the wrong side of luck and variance. He’s actually limited hard contact well throughout the season with a 34.5% Hard Hit% and a 6.3% Barrel%. His best weapon remains the strikeout with a 29.2% K%. I wrote in the series preview about how the Blue Jays had a much lower K% in the regular season than the Twins and how that could be a deciding factor. This is the type of game where we’ll find out.
That’s because the Twins draw Gausman, who struck out over 31% of opposing batters this season. Minnesota had the league’s highest K% at 26.6%. Where Minnesota was able to overcome the high K% was with the long ball, as they finished tied for third with 233 dingers. Gausman only allowed 19 homers in 185 innings, so he did an excellent job of keeping the ball in the park. That will be the key for him and all the Jays pitchers, as it’s hard for the Twins to manufacture runs and score without the long ball because they strike out too much. They only hit .243 as a team, which ranked 21st, and ranked outside the top 10 in OBP, despite a 9.6% BB%.
Both pitchers had low walk rates this season, which hurts the Twins more because of their inability to put bat to ball. Gausman only allowed more than three runs six times this season and gave up 29 of his 72 runs in four of his 31 starts, so he was really good way more often than not. Lopez allowed more than three runs eight times, but only two of them came in the second half.
This is a great pitching matchup with two really tight teams. The Twins haven’t won a playoff game in nearly 20 years and the Blue Jays haven’t had much playoff success themselves. Their last playoff win was in 2016 and they only have two playoff appearances since. I think that makes this game really tough to handicap and I don’t even have a lean.
The Minnesota bullpen is a little scarier to me, as I’m not as confident in guys like Emilio Pagan or Griffin Jax in leverage situations. The other thing is that Minnesota got to face a much weaker schedule with so many games against the pathetic AL Central. Some of their numbers may be a little bit inflated (or deflated) based on so many innings against bad offensive teams. Toronto didn’t have that same luxury.
So, no bet from me here, but the Jays did take money on the series price over the last two days. That stood out to me a bit and said a fair amount, especially because I don’t see much movement in series prices otherwise.
This is the only obvious example we have about why it means a lot to take care of your affairs as early as possible. Because the Diamondbacks went into the weekend without a playoff spot clinched, they were forced to use Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly in the series against the Astros. As a result, Brandon Pfaadt gets the call in Game 1 against the Brewers.
Corbin Burnes will go for Milwaukee, who was dealt some bad news yesterday with the announcement that Brandon Woodruff is out for this series and maybe the entire postseason. Getting past Arizona is still very doable and my only pre-series bet was Brewers to win 2-0, which I still like with how Freddy Peralta has pitched, but they’re going to have a harder time in a long series or even if this one goes to a decisive Game 3.
Anyway, as far as Pfaadt goes, I would assume that untested manager Torey Lovullo has a really quick hook for him if things start going south. The Diamondbacks have several guys capable of eating multiple innings in their bullpen, though those guys worked a lot on Sunday, so it is a fairly quick turnaround. The Diamondbacks bullpen is a weak link for me and a start with a guy like Pfaadt may simply compound that fear.
It’s only fair that we look at what Pfaadt has done since his July 29 recall. He’s got a 4.22 ERA with a 4.35 FIP in that span. He’s given up 13 homers and this might be a decent matchup because Milwaukee doesn’t hit for a lot of power, but I do have serious concerns about the command profile. He’s allowed a 40.9% Hard Hit% and an 11.1% Barrel% in 70.1 innings since coming back up. The league average HH% was 39.2% and the Barrel% was 8.1%, so those are two concerning numbers to be sure.
One thing Pfaadt did do well was limit opponents to a 5.4% BB% in that span and Milwaukee’s offense is predicated on drawing walks. They ranked third in BB% at 9.7% and that was one of the few above average skills for this group offensively. I think Pfaadt might have a better chance to hang in there than some believe.
Burnes had a tremendous second half, holding the opposition to a .187/.259/.294 slash with a .248 wOBA in 86.1 innings of work. He’s worked nine shutout innings in his last two appearances and threw eight no-hit innings against the Yankees on September 10 before being pulled due to his pitch count. Arizona’s offensive profile is about putting balls in play and trying to create opportunities on the bases. The problem here is that Burnes allowed just a 32.2% Hard Hit% and a 5.3% Barrel%, which puts him in elite territory when it comes to contact management.
I do think picking on the D-Backs bullpen might be profitable in this series, so I’ll look for live betting spots in the sixth inning or later, where I find Milwaukee has their biggest edge. I don’t have a pre-game bet. I will be curious to see if Pfaadt hangs in there like I feel he can.
The number shown here is easily the highest in the market, as DraftKings has a lot of East Coast clientele to worry about and has the biggest line spread for baseball games. Their line here is a 26-cent line, while others are running much smaller spreads on the games, especially because the Phillies are a smaller favorite. It is critically important to shop around for the best prices in every single game, including this one. If you like the Phillies, better prices can be had, so go out there and find one of them.
Jesus Luzardo and Zack Wheeler are the listed hurlers in this matchup. Luzardo, who has thrown far more innings than ever before, finished the regular season on a high note by allowing four runs on 11 hits over his final 18.1 innings against the Braves, Brewers, and Mets. I have to admit that I was wrong about Luzardo, who I felt was hitting a wall around mid-August, but he has allowed just 12 runs on 28 hits in his last 41.1 innings of work.
However, there is something lurking on the surface that I cannot ignore in this game. I talked in the Phillies/Marlins preview about how Miami has a better chance of thriving at home. Their offense doesn’t generate a lot of run-scoring chances and it makes sense that they had a much better home record than they did on the road. Luzardo exacerbated the problem with some poor road numbers. He had a 4.48 ERA with a .276/.329/.470 slash against and a .343 wOBA against in 70.1 road innings compared to a 3.07 ERA with a .216/.285/.369 slash and a .285 wOBA against at home.
He was better on the road later in the season, but to me, it is still a thing to be worried about, especially against a really good Phillies lineup. Luzardo also has some big TTO (times through the order) splits, allowing a .268 wOBA the first time through, a .315 the second, and a .369 the third time through. I think Wheeler and the Phillies have a major advantage in the middle innings. If you don’t want to take the Phillies pregame at the hefty price, look for a live betting spot.
I do want to start with the Phillies pregame here, though. Wheeler has been through the playoff grind and has pitched very well over six starts with a 2.78 ERA and a 2.92 FIP. It is uncharted territory for Luzardo and that can be a lot in this setting. Wheeler also had a 3.61 ERA, but a 3.18 xERA and a 3.15 FIP, so his peripherals paint an even prettier picture. The playoff environment is about hitting homers, right? I’ve said that a time or two already. Wheeler was a bit better about limiting homers than Luzardo, but the Phillies were also way better about hitting them than the Marlins, who were a bad offense against righties throughout the season.
I think the Phillies advance in this series and I think they win Game 1, so laying the Wheeler price today is a cheaper extension of taking -190 for the series price. The other option is the “Series Double” offered by DraftKings, which is -110 for the Phillies to win Game 1 and the Series. If you have a wager offering like that, I like that play quite a bit. I’m not sure that everybody does, so I won’t call it an official play, but it is a modified version of my mindset at a much more palatable price.
Either way, I like the Phillies here with a rested bullpen, a guy in Wheeler built to work deep into games because of his pitch efficiency, and a chance to fade the road splits of Luzardo. I have to list the DraftKings price here because that’s what I’ve done all season, but shop around and find a better one.
Pick: Phillies -162